Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
With the Barclay Arrival Plus, you can earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. This bonus is enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit and you will earn 2X miles on all purchases. Your introductory APR is 0 percent for 12 months and a variable APR, currently 14.99 percent or 18.99 percent, depending upon your credit score. Other key benefits of the Barclay Arrival Plus are complimentary FICO credit score access, ability to redeem miles for travel statement credits, no foreign transaction fees, no expiration of accumulated miles and 10 percent miles back to use towards your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits. The 10 percent miles back is a particularly good feature that’s not always found on other credit card benefits and amounts to an additional 4,000 miles when you earn the initial 40,000 miles. The annual fee of $89 is waived the first year.
Capital One Venture Rewards Visa Card
If you get a new account through the Capital One Ventures Reward card, you can earn 40,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. Other key benefits include unlimited 2X miles on every purchase that won’t expire and no blackout dates for travel. Also, as part of your benefits is a free credit tracker that will enable you to check your credit score anytime and get alerts. In order to determine how many miles you need to cover a travel expense, simply add two zeros to the cost. For example, if you want to book a $217 flight, you would need 21,700 miles; for a $109 hotel room, you would need 10,900 miles; and for a $57 car rental, 5,700 miles. Membership is $59 annually, with the first year waived. There is no transfer fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on a purchase in the first three months after opening your account – which amounts to $500 towards airfare or hotels when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You will also earn 2X points on travel and dining and one point per dollar on all other purchases. The annual fee is $95, with the first year waived.
You can transfer points at full value to participating travel programs including British Airways Executive Club, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Amtrak Guest Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
If you travel to a foreign country, you will not be required to pay any foreign transaction fees when you use your credit card on purchases made outside of the U.S. Whenever you travel, you will always get 20 percent off travel when you redeem for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, a $500 flight requires just 40,000 points, which will save you $100.
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Card
If you make $2,500 in purchases within the first four months of opening your Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa card account, you will earn two weekend night certificates at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio. Among those 4,100 hotels and resorts in the Hilton Worldwide Portfolio in 92 countries are Waldorf Astoria, Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites. The weekend night certificates, which are valid for one year from the date of issuance, only apply to the room rate and corresponding taxes and do not apply to gratuities, resort fees or incidental charges.
Other outstanding card benefits include 10 HHonors bonus points per $1 spent on hotel stays with the Hilton Portfolio, five for airline and car rental purchases and three points per $1 spent on other purchases. You can also earn an anniversary bonus of one weekend night certificate after you spend $10,000 on purchases each year. There are no foreign transaction fees associated with this card. The Hilton HHonors Reserve Card also provides auto rental insurance, automatic travel insurance, trip cancellation/trip interruption coverage and lost luggage coverage. The annual fee is $95, with no provision to waive the first year’s fee.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is arguably the best credit card for hotel perks. This card will allow you to earn free nights at over 1,100 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates, although some hotels may impose mandatory service and resort charges. You can earn free nights at any of Starwood’s nine district brands, including St. Regis, W Hotels, Le Meridien, Westin and Sheraton. You can also earn up to five Starpoints for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with participating hotels and resorts. Additionally, you can use your Starpoints for free flights on over 150 airlines all with no blackout dates through the Starwood Preferred Guest program.
You will earn 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and an additional 15,000 Startpoints after you use the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first six months.
Other noteworthy benefits of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card include car rental loss and damage insurance, a roadside assistance hotline and a global assist hotline. There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year then $65 thereafter.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.